BEES: WHAT WE CAN DO
Updated: Apr 21, 2019
Did you know that 1 in 3 bites of the food we eat (especially fruits, nuts, and veggies) is made possible by pollinators, such as honey bees? And, bees are the only insects that produce food eaten by humans. No pressure or anything, right?
As I mentioned in my Earth Day post, humans are (surprise!!) largely responsible for the decline in bee populations. (I mean, really anything negative happening around the world can be blamed on humans...we kinda suck). The two biggest things affecting bees that humans are responsible for are pesticides and (mainly) habitat loss.
Obviously, not all of us are out here using pesticides on our crops, so this post is for those of us who are just trying to make better/safer spaces for bees. It may not feel like it, but even one person making a pollinator-friendly space in their yard does make a difference!
Keep reading for some helpful, easy tips on how to help out our fuzzy little friends. I’ve also included a bunch of links at the end of the post where I found all of this info. and where you can find even more information about bees.
How to create a bee- and pollinator-friendly space in your yard
(information from davidsuzuki.org)
Build a bee house
○ Use an empty milk carton: cut the spout off but leave the rest intact; milk cartons are waterproof and already have bright images on them. You can also build a house (about the same size as the milk carton) out of wood (just don’t use cedar). If you use wood, paint the outside a bright colour “with exterior zero or low-VOC paint”
○ Fill the carton or box with layered stacks of brown paper nest tubes (available at garden stores). Cut the tubes to 6” long and close the end with tape or just by folding them. You can also make your own tubing by rolling brown paper around a regular writing pencil; this will give your tubes the correct diameter (just tape it together, and again, seal off the end).
○ Hang the house where it will NOT get rained on. Ensure it faces south or east and that you hang it at eye-level. WAIT to do this until the temperature outside has reached at least 12-14ºC / 54-57ºF (this time of year should be good to go, depending on where you live).
○ Depending on what your yard is made of, dig a spot on the ground below the house until you expose the clay layer of the earth (if you can’t do this, keep a bowl of moist clay near the house). The mason bees will use this as building material!
○ You can make as many houses as you want! Just make sure they’re different colours, so the little buddies don’t get confused and show up to the wrong party (that would be embarrassing)
How to create a bee bath
Bees, ladybugs, butterflies and other beneficial insects all need fresh drinking water but can’t land in a bath without crashing (so sad, I know). The little guys just need a nice tropical (well, just a rock really) island to touch-down safely on so they can get their fresh slurp of water.
○ Place a shallow plate/dish in your yard/garden at ground level wherever you’ve noticed bee activity. You can also place it near sick plants to attract ladybugs; they’ll eat any aphids that might be bothering your plants.
○ Put some rocks in the plate to create islands or landing pads
○ Add some fresh water but allow the rocks to stick out; this allows the bees to land safely on the rocks without crashing into the water. You also won’t attract/encourage mosquito larvae if the water level is low.
○ Refill as needed and move the bath around your yard.
Provide bees with food
Bees eat nectar and pollen; one provides energy while the other provides proteins and fats. Choose plants that flower at different times of the year, so there will always be a snack readily available for bees.
Native plant varieties are best because they attract bees native to where you live, and they will probably have the most levels of pollen and nectar as opposed to flowers that are bred for human pleasure.
Bees see colours very well, so choose brightly coloured plants and flowers. Their favourite colours are blue, purple, violet, yellow and white. Different bee species all have different tongue lengths, so make sure you also plant flowers of different shapes/sizes, too. Ensure to plant flowers of the same species together, so bees will find them easily.
Plant species that attract bees:
Early bloom: blueberry, foxglove, heather, primrose, willow
Mid-season bloom: blackberry, chives, lavender, raspberry, sunflower
Late bloom: aster (perennial) cornflower, cosmos, pumpkin, squash
Even more flowers that attract bees:
○ Bee balm (varieties include scarlet bee balm, lemon bee balm, and horse mint)
○ Blackeyed Susan (varieties include sunny yellow, bronze, mahogany, red, and some with two-toned petals)
○ California Lilac (evergreen)
○ English daisy (perennial; early to mid-summer)
○ Forget-Me-Not (the blue variety is one of my personal favourites; the white variety was used in Meghan Markle's wedding bouquet)
○ Goldenrod (perennials; mid-summer to mid-fall)
○ Lily of the Valley (poisonous; used in Kate Middleton's wedding bouquet)
○ Roses (single-petal and old fashioned fragrant roses are ideal)
○ Sedum (commonly known as stonecrop; succulent)
○ Thyme (perennial; culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses)
○ Yellow mustard (can be used to make prepared mustard AKA French's; seeds can be used to make mustard oil; leaves can be eaten as mustard greens)
If you’re worried about bees bothering you and your family, don’t be! Bees are scared of you, just as you are of them. They aren’t aggressive if you leave them be (no pun intended…maybe). They just get confused, the poor things.
But if you’re really worried about bees disturbing you, or if you’re like me and have a mischievous dog that will try to eat the bees because she doesn't understand we're trying to save them NOT eat them, you can always plant a bee-friendly garden in an area of the yard you don’t often use (maybe the back corner). Or, use a large planter box and place it somewhere you don’t often go (again, the back corner of your yard or even over by the shed you never go in; just make sure it gets adequate sunlight).
Now let's save those bees!
Bee Embroidered Iron-On Patch (to help raise a bit of awareness for our little bee friends)